Today marks the one-year anniversary of the day George Floyd was tragically killed at the hands of a former Minneapolis police officer who has been tried and convicted of his murder. On this day, we continue mourning his death and offering condolences to George Floyd’s family, friends and loved ones, and to all our caregivers and community members, especially those of color, who are still feeling this pain.
In response to George Floyd’s heartbreaking and senseless death, millions of people have joined in the collective call – a demand for racial justice and an end to systemic racism – heard loud and clear from all walks of life. UMass Memorial Health has been a part of that call to action.
Systemic racism permeates the business world, education and our own health care industry. We can’t stand by and let it continue. It’s our duty as human beings, healers, caregivers and leaders to end the racial disparities and racist behaviors that impede our health care mission. I’m very proud of the work we’ve done together this past year on our anti-racism journey. Here are a few of the actions we’ve taken together:
- We formed a systemwide Health Equity Steering Committee to assess and guide our internal health equity and anti-racism work and prioritize recommendations for improving the equity in the care we provide and making UMass Memorial Health a more inclusive workplace.
- We joined the City of Worcester to create a COVID-19 Equity Task Force to address the racial disparities we were seeing with the spread of COVID-19. Marlborough Hospital also worked with community partners such as the City of Marlborough, the Town of Hudson and faith-based organizations to provide COVID-19 vaccines for underserved populations, and HealthAlliance-Clinton Hospital did the same through their collaboration with the Community Health Network of North Central Massachusetts.
- We set our very first systemwide health equity goal – improving well-child visits for Black and Latino pediatric patients – an area we had identified that had significant disparities based on race. I’m pleased to share that after several months of interventions, such as proactive scheduling and outreach to reduce cancellations and no-shows, we have already substantially exceeded our goals. This is great work by our highly engaged teams in a short amount of time.
- We conducted listening/brainstorming sessions with our Employee Resource Groups and systemwide Diversity and Inclusion committees to hear directly from representatives of our diverse caregivers about issues and challenges they and their fellow colleagues, family members and communities face daily. In addition, HealthAlliance-Clinton Hospital established their first diversity-focused group of caregivers, called the Minority Advisory Council.
- We asked for and received more than 100 ideas from individual caregivers for improving diversity, equity, and inclusion for our patients, their families and our caregivers.
- We worked with an outside consultant, Promoting Good, to conduct an organizational assessment of our diversity, equity and inclusion efforts.
- We hired our first Chief Diversity, Equity, Inclusion Officer, Brian Gibbs, PhD, who started with us in December.
- We developed a program to fund ideas designed to promote equity in our health care delivery and foster a more equitable and inclusive workplace culture. We have committed $1 million toward this funding program, which is on schedule to launch this fall.
- We provided racial literacy training for our Core Leadership Team to foster a better understanding of anti-racism work and create a safe place to have constructive conversations about diversity, inclusion and equity with our teams.
- We held two public Health Equity Open Forums to start a dialogue with our community about addressing racial disparities in our region and how we can partner to address COVID-19 vaccine equity.
- Diversity became a key focus at UMass Memorial Medical Group as one of the group’s four LEAD initiatives. As part of that work, a Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) Committee was created in a combined effort with the DEI Offices at both the health care system and Medical School. DEI champions/liaisons have been identified to represent each clinical department as they embark on this important work.
- Various departments and teams throughout the system also have been focused on improving health equity and inclusion in their areas.
These are just a few highlights of the work that has transpired since last summer. While it seems overwhelming to try to turn the tide and bring an end to racism, doing our part in health care contributes to the greater change we want to see throughout our country.
Make no mistake, I recognize we have a lot of work before us in this area. But I’ve seen and heard the passion, the commitment, the interest, and willingness to learn and do more from so many of our caregivers this past year. This drive for improvement convinces me that together we can reach our goal to be better at giving equitable care to all patients and being a more welcoming, inclusive place for our patients, their families, and our caregivers alike. Thank you to our UMass Memorial Health caregivers for helping us as an organization to answer this call.